The term, "oldies," refers to both popular music from the 1950s-1970s and the radio format that specializes in this type of music. "Golden oldies" usually refers to oldies music exclusively from the 1950s-early 1960s. Oldies songs are typically from the R&B, pop and rock music genres but may also include
country, movie soundtrack, novelty, and other types of popular music played on the radio from around 1950-on. Pop music genres that had their heyday before the 1950s (e.g., ragtime, big band) are generally considered "too old" to be included in the oldies radio format. Oldies music radio stations, which typically feature bands and artists such as (to name a few) Elvis Presley, Bill
Richard, Pat Boone, Sam Cooke, the Beatles, the Beach
Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Rascals, the Association, the Temptations, the Who, Elton John, and Fleetwood Mac, cover a wide variety of styles including early rock and roll,
rockabilly, doo-wop, surf rock, girl groups, the British
Invasion, folk rock, psychedelic rock, baroque pop, soul
music, Motown, and bubblegum pop. Oldies music also overlaps with classic rock which focuses on the rock music of the late 1960s and 1970s as well as newer music in a similar style.
The phrase, "oldies but goodies," was first coined in 1957 by renowned deejay Art Laboe who, at around that time, used to get frequent requests from his listeners for songs from the early 1950s. A central figure in L.A. radio for over half a century, Laboe was the first deejay to play rock
n roll on the West Coast and one of the first to play black and white artists on the same show. In 1959, he put together the first LP to feature (mostly older) songs by different artists. This immensely popular compilation album, entitled "Oldies But Goodies," stayed on Billboard's Top 100 LP's chart for over three years and has, to date, spawned some 14 sequels.
Soon after the release of Laboe’s first "Oldies But Goodies" album, the phrase, "oldies but goodies," became commonplace and by around 1960, people were waxing nostalgic for 1950s doo-wop which was already starting to be classified as "oldies." Little Caesar And The Romans’ 1961 hit, "Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You)" and its sequel, "Memories of Those Oldies But Goodies," both pay homage to early doo-wop and doo-wop artists. This wave of nostalgia brought about a doo-wop revival in the early 1960s which was the first of many nostalgia movements in pop music since the term, "oldies," was first applied to older pop music.
While "golden oldies" has remained a constant over the years, the larger body of pop music that we still call "oldies" today - which is made up of core golden oldies songs plus more modern material - is not fixed but has been gradually expanding forward in time to keep up with changing demographics. Nowadays, oldies music is generally considered to include all of the 1970s, even disco, and the same is expected to be true someday for the music of the 1980s, now often described as "retro." Oldies music is also expanding in breadth as thousands of long-forgotten tunes from the 1950s and 1960s that never made the Top 40 in their day are being rediscovered and resurrected. Whether because of nostalgia, curiosity, or a genuine love for good music, the oldies format has maintained a huge following and will probably continue to do so for many years to come.
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Oldies is a generic term commonly used to describe a radio format that usually concentrates on Top 40 music from the '50s, '60s and '70s.
Oldies are typically from Rhythm
And Blues, pop and rock music genres. Country, jazz, classical music, and other formats are generally not considered oldies music, although some of those genres have their own oldies format (for instance, classic country). Occasionally the term is used to describe the rare station that includes '40s music as well, although music from before 1955 (coinciding with the "birth of rock'n'roll"), is typically the domain of the adult standards format. However, the term constitutes ambiguity for people who like old dancing music.
This format is sometimes called Golden Oldies, though this term usually refers to music exclusively from the '50s and early '60s (also termed "Real Oldies" or "True Oldies" by some radio stations which specialize in music from this era). Oldies radio typically features artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, The Four Seasons, and Sam Cooke; as well as such musical movements and genres as
doo-wop, soul music, Motown, the British Invasion, early girl groups, surf music, and bubblegum pop.
Most oldies stations limit their on-air playlists to no more than 300 songs, on the philosophy that average listeners will stay tuned provided they're familiar with the hits being played. The drawback to this concept is the endless repetition of the station's program library. Oldies has some overlap with the classic rock format, which concentrates on the rock music of the late-'60s and '70s and also plays newer material made in the same style.
The state of the Oldies format today
For many years, the time range of most Oldies  formats phased in with selections from the mid-'50s and phased out in the early '70s. Over time, especially since the turn of the century, stations increasingly limited selections from the '50s and culled out most hits in such styles as Country and Easy Listening. Many Oldies stations have dropped all or most music from before 1964 from their playlists, as it is believed that doo-wop and other music from the late '50s and early '60s appeals to demographics undesirable to advertisers, namely listeners over 40. As a result, many oldies stations have filled the holes in their playlists by extending their range into the mid- to late-'70s. Some stations extended into the '80s, and others have evolved into classic hits (see below) or classic rock.
The changes in selection have created some confusion over the definition of "Oldies", while many stations have adjusted their logos to accommodate their new formats. Stations that continue to use the term "oldies" in their on-air positioning generally do not play music made after 1975. Likewise, stations that do play post-1975 music have generally dropped the word "oldies" from their positioners, using identifiers such as "Super Hits," "Classic Top 40" or "The Greatest Top 40 Hits of All Time" (a la WRIT in Milwaukee and KLUV in Dallas/Fort Worth), or "Classic Gold" (a la CFCO in Chatham, Ontario). WSRZ-FM in Sarasota, FL dropped their "Oldies 108" advertising nomenclature in favor of "Your Home Town Station" while expanding their playlist up to 1980. They still have their "Cruise In" segment for late '50's and early '60's music.
In response to this, some radio stations such as WSAI in Cincinnati and WRLL in Chicago in the early 2000s adopted the "Real Oldies" moniker and a playlist spanning exclusively the mid-50s through the mid-'60s. Most of these "Real Oldies" stations were on the AM dial and featured legendary personalities from the '60s-'70s golden Top 40 era (for example, WLS legend Larry Lujack was part of the WRLL air staff). However, WSAI soon dropped the
format, and WRLL (now WVON) dropped it as well in the fall of 2006, because of a combination of low ratings (due largely to the amount of "unfamiliar" music played on such stations and the fact that they broadcast on AM) and unfavorable ad demographics.
Many other stations have also been forced to drop the format because of low ad revenue despite high ratings.
Unlike public radio stations where the size of the audience can impact the programming because listeners can choose to support a particular show or platform through donations which are also tax
deductions. On June 3, 2005, New York's WCBS-FM, an oldies-based station for over three decades, abruptly switched to the Jack FM format, resulting in a tremendous outcry from oldies fans in the Big Apple. WJMK in Chicago (WCBS-FM's sister station) switched to Jack FM on the same day. Some point to the demise of WCBS-FM and WJMK as a sign that the oldies format is in danger, for many of the same reasons that the adult standards format is disappearing. However, WJMK had been struggling for many years, and was in much worse shape than most other major-market oldies stations. In addition, unlike New York City (with the possible exception of WMTR-AM in nearby New Jersey), the Chicago market has not technically been without an oldies station since, due to the existence of the aforementioned WRLL and now
Oldies format returns to WCBS-FM
According to online reports on July 6, 2007, WCBS-FM will shift from its current "Jack" format and bring back WCBS-FM's oldies format which they had till 2005. CBS Radio, owner of WCBS-FM, declined to comment on the much rumored change Initial reports about the WCBS format change surfaced on July 6 in the Radio Business Report online newsletter, and at Crain's New York Business.com. But rumors were floating around earlier in the week. If this happens, it will be a fantastic move," said Bruce Cousin Brucie Morrow, one of the veteran DJs jettisoned when the station swapped formats. "There isn't a day that goes by that people don't come up to me and say, `We miss the station so much", According to an "industry insider" at NewYorkBusiness.com, the upcoming oldies format may be modified to appeal to younger listeners, and that veteran DJs may be hired. The catalyst for all of this was the recent replacement of former CBS Radio President Joel Hollander ( who was the driving force behind the change to "JACK" ) with radio veteran Dan Mason who almost immediately began dismantling many of the changes that were made in the company during Hollander's tenure, particularly the failed "Free-FM" talk format. WCBS-FM's sister station WXRK , had dropped its longtime rock music format in favor of talk as "Free-FM" after the departure of Howard Stern, but just recently, the station returned to its previous "K-Rock music format, which probably added fuel to the rumours of the possible WCBS-FM format "about face" since the music WXRK now plays is similar to that of sister WCBS's current "JACK" format.
On July 9, 2007 CBS Radio made the announcement that oldies would indeed return to 101.1 and the HD 1 channel on Thursday July 12 at 1:01 p.m. EDT. The returning format will initially be the current HD-2 format and will feature music from 1964 to 1979, a sprinkling of hits of the 1980s and a limited amount of oldies from 1955-1963. Within a few days following the flip, former personalities Dan Taylor and Bob Shannon will be returning to the station. Broadway Bill Lee has also been added to the WCBS-FM lineup. Additional air personalities will be added over the next couple months. The "Jack FM" format will then move to WCBS-FM's HD2 subchannel.
In a similar vein to the series finale of The Sopranos, including the last line spoken by Tony Soprano, the final song on Jack FM was "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, ending at 12:44 p.m. Then, the oldies format returned in the same way it left, First picking up at the end of Frank Sinatra's Summer Wind (which was the last song played before the flip to Jack on June 3 2005) followed by greetings from former CBS FM DJs Harry Harrison and Ron Lundy, leading into clips of music, movies, television shows, and events from each year starting in 1964 through the 1980s, with WCBS-FM jingles interspersed between. Former mayor Ed Koch then welcomed back the format, noting the "mistake" WCBS-FM had made with the
Other Oldies Stations
The oldies format remains one of the most popular formats on radio in markets where it is still active. Some of the most successful major-market oldies stations today include KRTH "K-Earth 101" in Los Angeles, KOLA 99.9 in Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, WODS "Oldies 103" in Boston, WOGL in Philadelphia, WMJI "Majic 105.7" in Cleveland, WGRR in Cincinnati, WZZN in Chicago, and KLUV in Dallas. However, to illustrate the continued decline in the format, San Francisco's KFRC dropped the oldies format entirely in 2006 in favor of the Rhythmic AC "MOViN" format which left most of Northern California without an oldies station until the debut of KCCL (K-Hits 92.1) in Sacramento in January, 2007. (It should be pointed out, however, that KFRC had already evolved its format and positioning to classic hits at the time it changed to "Movin". but KFRC was not gone for long. On May 17, 2007 with Free FM hot talk format failing on 106.9 KIFR CBS relaunced KFRC with a classis hits format on 106.9.
Veteran New York radio programmer Scott Shannon developed a format known as the "True Oldies Channel," distributed via satellite by ABC Radio, which features some of the music featured on "Real Oldies" stations as well as hits of the late '60s and very early '70s, but generally nothing after 1975. The most high-profile "True Oldies Channel" affiliate is probably WZZN-FM in Chicago, which adopted the "True Oldies" approach in the wake of WJMK's change to Jack FM. However, WZZN has slowly been adding more local personalities (including vetran radio personality Dick Biondi), and now only airs 'True Oldies' from 10am-3pm weekdays. WIFO-FM Jesup, GA airs the True Oldies Channel during weekends as a contrast to its normal weekday country programming, and it is well received.
Jones Radio Networks, Waitt Radio Networks and Dial Global (formerly part of Westwood One) also offer 24-hour satellite-distributed oldies formats. ABC Radio actually offers two: in addition to the "True Oldies Channel," there is the much longer-running and more established "Oldies Radio" format (formerly known as "Pure Gold" during the time in the Satellite Music Network), which focuses mainly on the decade from 1965 to 1975 with some older and newer material.
In North America, Satellite Radio broadcasters XM and Sirius each have more than a dozen oldies radio channels, with XM offering separate stations for each decade from the '40s to the '90s, and Sirius doing the same for the '50s through the '80s. These companies offer specific genre channels for disco and dance hits, classic rock, and R&B and soul hits. ,These pay radio channels boast thousands of songs in their libraries, ensuring far less repetition than traditional broadcast stations. As of early 2007, the total number of satellite radio listeners is still under 15,000,000, but it's expected that this will increase over time.
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